The office of the Executive Leader, Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council, Council Offices, Wellington Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside, OL6 6DL
Cllr Kieran Quinn Executive Leader of the Council Tel: 0161 342 3016 Fax: 0161 342 3543 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Daniel W. Stowell Your Ref: Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Our Ref: KQ/JR Museum Doc Ref: JR/LETTS/KQ/502 112 North Sixth Street Ask for: Councillor Kieran Quinn Springfield Date: 19th January 2015 Illinois 62701 United State of America
Dear Dr. Stowell
As Executive Leader of Tameside Council, and on behalf of the people of Tameside, I am honoured to be invited to take part in your remembrance of Abraham Lincoln. His force of conscience and personality stand as a shining example to civic leaders in all times and places, and his role in girding the Union to defeat a challenger that held scant regard for human rights and dignity serves as an inspiration to a world once more in need of such dynamic and principled leadership.
The heartfelt sympathy of my counterpart on 10th May 1865 was a response that was mirrored by all parts of the borough, especially since the American Civil War had such a profound and direct effect on the people and place. The Confederacy believed that "King Cotton" would force Great Britain to support their cause due to the dependence of British industrial might on imported Southern Cotton. Nowhere was this dependence more pronounced that in Lancashire, Cheshire and Derbyshire, where 2,650 cotton mills employed 440.000 people to produce L32 million worth of cloth a year.
In my own borough of Tameside, entire towns such as Ashton, Stalybridge and Dukinfield were built and prospered on the cotton industry. With Confederate embargo and Union blockade, the mills fell silent during what became known as the Lancashire Cotton Famine. In Stalybridge, all but 5 of the town's 39 factories and 24 machine shops ceased operations and 7,000 operatives faced the grim spectre of unemployment and destitution.
The working men and women of Tameside faced the starkest of choices. Do they continue their support of the Union at the risk of their livelihoods, or do they keep food on the table and roofs over their head by sacrificing their principles at the altar of King Cotton?
At a mass meeting in Manchester's Free Trade Hall, on New Year's Eve, 1862, a mixture of cotton workers and the Manchester middle class passed a motion urging Lincoln to prosecute the war, abolish slavery and continue the blockade of the Confederacy regardless of the economic cost, stating that:
"The vast progress which you have made in the short space of twenty months fills us with hope that every stain on your freedom will shortly be removed, and that the erasure of that foul blot on civilisation and Christianity - chatter slavery - during your presidency, will cause the name of Abraham Lincoln to be honoured and revered by posterity"
And on November 16th 1863, during the height of the conflict, Ernest Jones, the noted barrister, novelist and Chartist gave the clear and unequivocal response of the people of Tameside in an address at Ashton Town Hall:
"Those base planters did not know what English working men were made of. They deemed we should never enquire about the justness of their cause, but that cotton was our God, and we should obey his mandates. Therefor, they sent their agents over to us, appealing to out lowest instincts - to our most sordid self-inerests. But woe to a people that puts its interests before its duties. It will find, when the day of reckoning comes, that its real interests and duties are identical, and that it sacrificed the one when it deserted the other. But you have not done so,"
In the face of such principled resistance, "King Cotton" proved to be a mirage. History has vindicated both the choice of the people of Tameside and the suffering they bore as the cost of it. 150 years ago to the day on which I write this letter to you, Abraham Lincoln provided his own response:
"Under the circumstances I cannot but regard your decisive utterance on the question as an instance of sublime Christian heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any country. It is indeed and energetic and re-inspiring assurance of the inherent truth and of the ultimate and universal triumph of justice, humanity and freedom"
Democracy is a never static form of government. It must always change and evolve to best allow for the full achievement of individual freedom and potential. In my own country, democratic tradition has been an 800 year experiment stretching from the Magna Carta, which cast down the absolute power of the monarch, to our current striving to gain more powers from our central government to better serve and represent the people of Tameside. The most significant lessons of the American Civil War and the Lancashire Cotton Famine were to prove the strength and resilience of democratic governance when faced with an existential threat, and that a shared sense of morality and responsibility can transcend the crude boundaries of nationality and self-interest.
The legacy of Abraham Lincoln still lives with us today. In the English-speaking world, the only figures to have more books written about them are Jesus Christ and William Shakespeare. Due to the course of his life and his death, Lincoln has become a secular martyr for free and democratic governance, but to focus on Lincoln the martyr is to lose sight of Lincoln the man, Lincoln the politician,Lincoln the husband. His response to the difficult questions he faced, how he grew as a human being and indeed, sometimes, how he failed in his efforts are as fascinating and relevant today as the myths that have grown around him.
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In concluding, I shall eave you with an extract of the address by the Rev. S Alfred Steinthat, given at the the sympathetic funeral address and procession held by the Ashton-under-Lyne Union and Emancipation Society on 7th May 1865:
"A great crime has been committed in America. With one great and noble cry of the natural goodness of the universal human heart, a cryof horror has gone up to heaven, declaring that not only does the family which has been bereaved, not only does the nation on whom the loss most directly falls, but all men everywhere feel that the most precious sanctities of the human race have been attacked, and that all men deem holy has been outraged. Never have such varied elements combined to condemn any crime".
The people of Tameside and I commend you in your efforts to shine a light on the whole and true picture of Abraham Lincoln, and I sincerely hope that these documents will contribute to that end.
Councillor Kieran Quinn Executive Leader of the Council
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